Craig A. Williams (ed.), Martial: Epigrams: Book Two
Themes. We return to invective on Postumus and his repulsive kisses (2.10, 2.12; cf. Hormus in 2.15) with an epigram that initiates a three-poem cluster. The point is the same as in 2.10—Martial would prefer not to kiss Postumus—but made even more bluntly. Walter 1995: 109 suggests that Martial is resisting "the fashion of greeting with a kiss" ("der Mode des Begrüβungskusses"), but this seems unlikely. Although in 11.98 Martial expresses impatience with basiatores, the problem is their insistence rather than the practice itself; just as in 2.67 Martial is hardly rejecting the practice of greeting people with the formula "Quid agis?" Nor would it be in line with Martial's persona to reject a practice simply because it is fashionable.
Structure. Rather than displaying the bipartite structure frequently characterizing monodistichs, the epigram's three sentences correspond to its tripartite structure: Postumus' practice; his offer to Martial; the latter's response. At the same time we observe the decreasing length and complexity of the three sentences, culminating as they do in a two-word point.
1: The chiastic structure das aliis, aliis das is itself positioned between the two opposed objects basia and dextram, but a perfect ABCCBA structure is compromised by the inserted vocative Postume. For the phrase basia das and for the practice of kissing as social greeting, see on 2.10.1.
1 dextram: For the handclasp as alternative to the kiss, see Suet. Dom. 12: when his father's concubine Caenis offered him a kiss in greeting, the young Domitian extended his hand instead, a sign of his being minime civilis animi.
2 dicis "utrum mavis?" The technique of anticipating or imagining an interlocutor's response or comment with a verb of saying (dicis, inquis, ais, respondes) is found frequently enough in Martial: in Book II alone, see 2.32.6, 2.60.3, 2.63.4, 2.65.2, 2.67.1, 2.69.6, 2.93.1. For the omission of an explicit verb of saying, see on 2.8.7.